While unbelievable and still hard to fathom, it’s almost appropriate that Bill Paxton’s death was announced on the same day as the Oscars ceremony, as it just reinforces how ridiculous it is that the Fort Worth native never took home a golden statue despite being universally acknowledged as the best part of so many great movies. If there was a category for “Best Scene Stealer,” Paxton would have had several Oscars on his mantel by now. In lieu of that, TGD can at least pay tribute with some of our favorite moments from an actor who was such a huge part of our moviegoing lives:
Kevin: It’s rare that the biggest coward in a movie is also the fan favorite, but that’s why we loved Bill Paxton. There have been seven movies set in the “Alien” universe since 1979, but Corp. Hudson’s scared-shitless disbelief at the situation he’s in is by far the most realistic representation in the series of how we would feel if we suddenly found ourselves under attack from acid-bleeding nightmare creatures. But when Hudson finally and briefly turns into a confident badass shooting at the hordes of aliens at the end, we also buy it because we can tell that despite his fear he’s also a trained warrior prepared to go down fighting.
Rather than referencing Paxton’s most famous quote from this movie, I’ll first say I’ve seen this movie three times in the theater in the last few years, and this retort to Sigourney Weaver when she mentions how long Newt survived alone never fails to get a huge laugh from the audience:
However my own personal favorite Paxton line occurs after the team has been decimated and barely escaped with their lives. When Paul Reiser’s character Burke argues against destroying the alien species (aka “nuke ‘em from orbit”), Hudson responds, “Maybe you haven’t been keeping up on current events but we just got our asses kicked pal!”
CJ: I know there are more obvious ones, but for me I always laugh my ass off at his role as Simon in “True Lies.” There’s something so hilariously douchey about the guy. I could easily picture a Netflix-type TV show about him, where he’s still just as skeezy as ever, but once in a while ominously mentions what happened to him with Harry Tasker. There would also be great ongoing jokes about pissing your pants.
Also, let’s not forget his look. My god, only pure genius could conjure up that look. The mustache, the way he dresses, the “My mom still cuts my hair” haircut. What a loser! I love this guy!
It also has one of my favorite lines: “Oh God, no, please don’t kill me. I’m not a spy. I’m nothing. I’m navel lint! I have to lie to women to get laid, and I don’t score much. I got a little dick, it’s pathetic!”
Kevin: And yes he pisses himself and runs away like out of a Looney Tunes cartoon! What established actor by that point would allow himself to look that pathetic but Bill Paxton? (Apparently the same one who could survive multiple tours with James Cameron.) I honestly almost feel like his character in “True Lies” could be Chet from “Weird Science” 10 years later. Either way, my favorite line from him in this movie is this because it’s so inappropriate yet he sells it so well:
And while we are talking about Chet …
Yeah what can you say about Chet that hasn’t already been said? He’s great. When Mrs. Steven Seagal (aka Kelly Le Brock) says, “Chet, why are you such a wanker?” he responds “Cause I get off on it!” Hell yeah, Chet loves being a dick and why shouldn’t he, he makes it look so fun.
As usual, one of my favorite Paxton lines is at the margins, when he puts little brother Wyatt up against a wall and says, “I’m telling mom and dad everything … I’m even considering making up some shit!” Of course I only wish I could be half as confident telling Le Brock that I want to “butter her muffin.”
“Tombstone” and “Apollo 13”
Kevin: Even when he didn’t have many great lines or character quirks, Paxton still made an impression. In “Tombstone” he’s part of what is the greatest cast in possibly action and definitely Western movie history: Kurt Russell. Val Kilmer. Sam Elliott. Powers Booth. “Aliens” co-star Michael Biehn. Charlton Heston. Stephen Lang. Billy Bob Thornton. Michael Rooker. Uhhhh … Frank Stallone and Jason Priestly.
Either way, when Paxton’s character Morgan Earp is killed we as the audience are ready for blood. Why? Good question, as we barely have a sense of who Morgan Earp is. But the filmmakers obviously knew that Bill Paxton was so innately likable that we would be ready to see vengeance laid down on anyone who would hurt him. For comparison sake, do you even remember who played Morgan Earp in the Kevin Costner version of “Wyatt Earp”? Yeah I thought so.
As far as “Apollo 13,” once again Paxton does a lot with a little. Hanks is the lead, Kevin Bacon plays the inexperienced guy who has to prove himself, while Gary Sinise and Ed Harris step up in the third act in the Mission Control room in Houston. Paxton as Fred Haise has no major character arc other than trying to do his job, but because he’s played by Bill Paxton we like him immediately and root for him to get back home.
Mike: He played a Seal sniper named “God.” Need I say more?
Kevin: Yeah, how do you fuck up a Navy Seal movie with a squad that reunites Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton? Well this movie did it. Once again he’s memorable in just a few scenes, and makes you wonder how much better an already great movie like “Predator” could have been if he was on that squad rather than getting killed in “Predator 2.”
“One False Move” and “Frailty”
Mike: Let’s not forget “One False Move,” a great low-budget crime drama from 1993, written by and co-starring a younger and fatter Billy Bob Thornton, that almost got buried until great reviews and word of mouth saved it.
Kevin: Yeah while we loved “funny” Bill Paxton he was also great in dramas both in front of and behind the camera, as in his directorial debut “Frailty,” a seriously creepy thriller with a great cast including Matthew McConaughey and his “Tombstone” co-star Powers Boothe.
Bill Paxton only has a few lines near the end as an air traffic controller in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s awesome 1985 slaughterfest “Commando.” So why are we including it here? Because this and his brief appearance as a doomed punk in “The Terminator” just go to show that if there was a movie you loved in the 1980’s, there was a good chance Bill Paxton would be a part of it somehow.
“Edge of Tomorrow”
Kevin: Let’s see: 1) Futuristic Marines fighting evil aliens. 2) Giant robotic mech suits. 3) Bill Paxton.
Is this the “Aliens” sequel we always wanted where Hudson survived and is training a new group of soldiers? No, it’s a different movie where Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt re-live the same day over and over before figuring out how to defeat an alien menace, but I have to imagine director Doug Liman knew what he was doing when casting Paxton as Master Sergeant Farell. And if nothing else, it was fun as hell for those of us who grew up in the 80’s to finally see Cruise and Paxton share the screen.
The best compliment I can pay Bill Paxton is from someone who I recommended “Edge of Tomorrow” to and this is what he texted me later while watching it: “Holy shit, Bill Paxton is in this, awesome.”
Yep, Bill Paxton was awesome and he will be missed, but as we’ve seen from his work on the big screen, he will never be forgotten.